Eat yourself younger

Get a more youthful appearance fast by powering up your diet with protein

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Get a more youthful appearance fast by powering up your diet with protein

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Protein is about more than building muscle than staving off hunger. Our skin, hair, teeth, nails, brain cells and bones are all proteinbased.

If we don’t consume enough, our skin can’t produce the collagen to keep it supple and we can end up weak, tired and with thinning hair. So it’s no wonder the health and beauty industry is embracing this anti-ageing saviour. And consuming lots of protein doesn’t have to mean a diet packed with meat. Protein is found in a surprising number of foods, which are rich in anti-ageing nutrients.

Almond Milk Cow’s milk is a great source of protein but for dairy-free followers, such as Gwyneth Platrow, almond milk is a good anti-ageing choice. As well as containing protein, calcium and vitamin E, almond milk boosts the skin’s moisture, says nutritionist Karen Fischer, author of Younger Skin In 28 Days.

Supercharge it In Gwyneth’s banana ice-cream recipe, from her book It’s All Good, she cuts out the refined sugar – which can break down skin’s collagen and elastin – and instead sweetens it with antioxidant-rich maple syrup.

Adzuki Beans Celebrity nutritionist Elizabeth PeytonJones, author of Eat Yourself Young, raves about these beans. “As well as being an almost complete source of protein (containing many of the essential amino acids), the flavonoids in their skin have been shown to be even better at repairing damaged DNA than vitamin C,” she says.

Supercharge it “For our bodies to effectively use protein to create collagen, we should also consume plenty of vitamin C, manganese, copper and zinc,” says Elizabeth. Find them in her adzuki bean salad, which contains all of the nutrients, plus iodine-rich seaweed, to help regulate your hormones.

Garden Peas One of our most overlooked superfoods, the humble garden pea is a nutrition powerhouse, and a great source of protein. Rich in vitamin K, which can help build strong bones, as well as vitamins A and C, peas are surprisingly higher in minerals than some of their fancier cousins, such as snow peas.

Supercharge it The menthol in a mint garnish can boost your digestion and energy. You could also add some asparagus – either as part of a salad or risotto. A mild diuretic, it’s thought to help detoxify the body, and is also believed to be a natural aphrodisiac.

Tofu Vegetarian gourmet chef Natasha Corrett, co-founder of Recipe: Peel 4 ripe bananas and slice into thin rounds. Place on a lined baking tray and freeze.

Meanwhile, combine ¼ cup of chopped, roasted almonds with 2 tsps of maple syrup and a pinch of salt and set aside. Pulse the frozen banana with ½ cup almond milk, 2 tbsps of maple syrup, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract in a food processor until it resembles soft ice-cream. Sprinkle with the almond mixture and serve.

(Makes 570 ml), recommends limiting our meat intake and getting more of our protein from vegetarian sources such as tofu, which contains iron, calcium and magnesium.

Supercharge it Try serving your tofu with gluten-free noodles, such as buckwheat or soba noodles. Buckwheat is a complete source of vegetable protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and a great source of magnesium.

Red Quinoa As well as providing the essential amino acids, quinoa boasts a range of other nutrients, including iron, magnesium and folate. But the red variety packs even more of a healthy punch. “It’s lower in carbohydrates and has a lower GI than white quinoa. Plus, it owes its rich colour to anthocyanins, powerful memoryboosting antioxidants,” says Karen.